I’ve spent half my life being a dad, which has been the most rewarding time of my 50 years on this Earth. There have been ups and downs, good times and bad, laughter and, yes, some tears, both happy and sad.
But I wouldn’t trade being a dad for anything in the world. I realize every day that it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been at it or to how many kids, you never stop learning.
I had a wonderful role model in my own father. He taught me that it doesn’t matter how much money you have or what kind of car you drive. Life is about how you help others, when possible, with any extra money you do have and the quality of the people you let ride in your car.
My oldest, from a first marriage, is an adult—happy, healthy and off the payroll, as I always boast. My other boys are 10 and 8. They know to hold the door open for a lady and to say “please” and “thank you” and “excuse me” at the appropriate times. But they also know they shouldn’t be in a situation where they have to excuse themselves after unleashing some popular boy noise at an inappropriate time.
Despite hundreds of near-misses, my younger boys claim to know to aim at the water in the toilet, not the bowl around it. Of course, if asked, their mother would say missing is in their genes.
Speaking of genetics, all three boys understand I have no interest in camping—I get that from Dad—but I am happy to pitch a tent in the backyard so they and their mom can have quality time together under the stars.
One of the best things I’ve done is find a hobby to enjoy with each boy, just the two of us. Whether we’re walking the docks at Summit Marina, playing Around the World in the driveway or biking along the C&D Canal, it’s then that I can really feel and understand what’s going on in their lives, their minds and their hearts.
One son loves European soccer. Another is a big fan of the NBA. The third hopes to one day drive in NASCAR. I now enjoy following all three sports.
When we go to athletic events, I’ve realized that the thrill for them of getting ice cream at halftime of a UD game far outweighs the next-to-nothing impact the expense has on their college funds.
I try hard not to talk critically about their performance in a game on the car ride home—even if that sometimes means they take a ride home with a friend.
I’ve also tried to teach them some important rules they can hand down to their kids, rules like no balls in the house—except when Mom is out—and that devouring a big piece of leftover cake for breakfast really is no different than eating a doughnut.
I’ve survived watching “Rugrats,” “Barney & Friends” and “Power Rangers,” but still haven’t mastered any of the video games that have come out since the controllers advanced beyond my Atari joystick.
Perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned as a father is to never let “but everyone is doing it” be a reason to say “yes.” After all, their father knows what’s best for them. At least, that’s what I tell them.
Gosh, I really do sound like my father. I can only hope that one day my boys will say the same.